Tinsel Wing

Friday, November 10, 2006

Rovester's Last Stand

Rumsfeld's defenestration came as no surprise. But the fact that he was shown to the window mere days after Bush had sworn to the skies that he would stick to Don like glue to the end of his days did raise some eyebrows. That Bush openly admitted he was lying when he so swore, raised a few more. Talking through one's ten gallon hat has always been integral to the Cowboy Code, Crawford style; but fessing up to it is a new codicil.

You may ask which was the lie: the old assertion that he planned to keep Rummy on forever, or the newer assertion that Rummy would have gone packing even if Republican supremacy had stayed put. And the only answer will be a Rumsfeldian one: It's one of those unknown unknowns.

But what raised eyebrows in punditstan raised hackles among the Republican faithful. Why on earth did Bush make a categorical commitment to his SecDef, just when congresscritters on the stump were trying to emphasize their flexibility on the war? Didn't he realize he was handing over the Congress to the enemy?

I have a contrarian take on that. The facts are these: the middle had turned decisively against Bush, by nearly two to one. Not only did independents not like his war, they no longer thought him truthful. They would not have believed a sudden burst of "flexibility" from him.

Rove's whole electoral theory over seven years had been to play very hard right for the base, count on winning nearly half of the inattentive middle by default, and so to squeak out a 51% majority. The theory fell apart when the middle began to pay attention, and decidedly dislike what they saw. Once Bush lost credibility with the middle, a sudden feint to the left would have payed no dividends. Worse, it would have confused and depressed the True Believers. Rove had painted himself into a corner. He had deprived himself of all options but the same old playbook. He had to appeal even harder to the base, hope that the Dems were overestimating their new GOTV prowess, and hope that the middle just stayed home in droves.

Dubya's eternal commitment to Rumsfeld the Brilliant was the final application, the dying spasm, the last throes, if you will, of the Rove Theory of Conservative Domination. He and Bush weren't ignoring the plight of their congressional hopefuls. They were sending in the only cavalry they had left in the fort.

And they were trying not to see the arrows streaming through the air, or the ghostly aura of yellow moustaches streaming behind Karl in the wind, as he led the charge.


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